Keys to success

What might the classical composers of yesteryear be like if they were in the music business today?

They might be like Chloe Flower — pianist, composer and arranger whose work spans Frédéric Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninoff on one end of the spectrum and the rappers Swae Lee and 2 Chainz on the other with some Johnny Mathis and Celine Dion in the middle.

“I have some 200 songs in my playlist,” she says, “from classical to contemporary to covers.” Such versatility “is one of my strengths,” she adds.

We met the New York-based musician at the black-and-white Masquerade Fête for the opening of the revamped Saks Shops at Greenwich in October and found her to be a charmer in every way. She looked elegant in a Gucci headdress. (You could imagine her playing duo piano with the equally stylish Franz Liszt at a Paris soirée.) And, judging from the applause and comments from listeners, we could only concur that her 20-minute performance at the keyboard was too short. She left us wanting more.

Performing at parties is different from concerts, she says. “The repertoire is very different. In a party situation, I do more covers, up-tempo stuff, pop, Top 40, hip-hop.”

But should you be in a romantic mood, Flower is happy to oblige you with some of her favorites, everything from Chopin to her own arrangements of iconic love songs like Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.” Not surprisingly for a pianist-composer, Flower gravitates to great composers who were themselves also great pianists like Chopin and Rachmaninoff. 

“I love Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor,” she says. “I play that a lot. It’s so beautiful.”

No doubt his music will find its way onto her upcoming album. Recently, she signed with Sony Masterworks to create a CD of serene solo piano music.

It was, however, another composer who revved her engine in childhood. Growing up in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, west of Harrisburg, where she was born the daughter of a painter and a real estate investor, Flower would sway in her crib to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, her mother told her. She started playing the piano at age 2 and gave her first concert at 4 or 5 at a nursing home, sitting on a telephone book placed on the piano bench so she could reach the keyboard in the manner of the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was propped up on cushions. At 12, Flower was studying at the Manhattan School of Music then went on to The Juilliard School, where she studied with the beloved but unstinting Herbert Stessin, and the Royal Academy of Music in London. Returning to New York, she might’ve gone on to a conventional career in classical music. But the pop world and then Los Angeles came calling. In L.A., she signed with singer-songwriter and record producer Babyface, with whom she still works, creating arrangements for Mathis and Dion.

Along the way, Flower says she learned every aspect of the business, particularly the technical side.

“I learned early on to use all of the (engineering) software. I couldn’t rely on other people.”

Indeed, the crew would be gone and Flower would be gearing up “in the wee small hours of the morning,” as the song goes, for another take. 

Such knowledge has stood her in good stead as a film composer. Soundtracks are the last component of filmmaking. Often the composer gets a rough cut, which she watches in the comfort of her home while composing on a keyboard hooked up to the computer. (Flower also composes at the piano and just on paper as well.) Writing for film is a passion. She has scored “A Ballerina’s Tale,” the documentary about American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland, and “Kevin Hart: What Now? All Access,” a TBS documentary on the comedian.

Perhaps, though, there will be a horror flick in her future. Her favorite thing, she says, is to stay in, order from a food delivery service and watch horror movies such as the 2003 French film “High Tension.”

Clearly, it’s a complement to a life of “peaceful piano music.”

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